Not every five-month-old-puppy can handle a 3,800 mile drive, so I was a bit nervous about driving from California to Florida with Cali and Jana. Fortunately, my mom came along to help. Cali, like big sister Jana, turned out to be an excellent traveler, though.
Cali took the Grand Canyon at sunset in stride. This was after a morning spent at The London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, AZ (a consolation trip, once we discovered that the Hoover Dam does not allow pet dogs on site at all, ever, no matter what). Near the river in Lake Havasu City, Cali and Jana also encountered a weird piece of sidewalk that spouted water. And had ducks. Very cool, they thought.
Cali liked the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, too. Kansas City and a visit with cousins Hannah and Ziggy was a huge success. Cali then slept through a few more days in the car, and we were home. In Florida.
Scary, scary Florida.
We arrived home on a Wednesday. First thing, Mom and I opened the windows and turned on the ceiling fans. I turned around, wondering where my puppy had gone in this huge house, so different from our one-room studio in Valley Ford, CA. She was hiding under a table in the dressing room. Would not come out, even for food. Well, after some coaxing, Cali was able to dash into the kitchen for her dinner, but she kept casting nervous glances at the dining room ceiling. Ah. Ceiling fans. Terrifying. Who knew?
The truth is, it is pretty normal for a puppy to be afraid of a weird thing moving overhead and casting all sorts of weird shadows. I just hadn’t thought about it.
After dinner, it was time to visit the back yard. Which requires navigating a bead curtain. Again, very scary.
By bedtime, Cali had conquered her fear of the curtain. The fans took longer. But, by dinner time the next day, Cali was willing to hang out in the same room as the fans, though she still gave them a wary look from time to time.
That same Thursday afternoon, we took her (poor kid) to the beach across the street. Not surprisingly, calm, shallow, warm, waveless Tampa Bay is much more to her liking than the ferocious Pacific Ocean. She bounded right in. When the ball floated out to sea a bit, she bounded after it. Until, on landing from her leap, there was nothing under her paws. A panicked look at me — then she quickly realized that her paws were paddling of their own accord. “I can swim!!” her happy expression said.
What else did Florida throw at this poor puppy? A dog door lesson. She’d been watching her all-powerful big sister Jana use her magic to open this amazing portal. Now it was Cali’s turn. She got her key (our dogs wear magnetic “keys” to open the dog door; this keeps out cats, opossum, and other local wildlife) and we headed to the back office.
With my helpful mom standing on one side and me on the other, both armed with treats, the lesson was quick. About 12 seconds, I think. I called her. Out she came. Treat. Mom called her. In she went. Treat. Four or five repetitions and Cali was a dog door pro. She loves going in and out, just because she can. (Her reaction is not so different from Wylie’s, when we first installed the dog door.)
Is anyone counting? Cali has conquered ceiling fans and bead curtains, mastered electronic dog doors, and found out that she could swim. All before she turned 6 months old. Actually, all in about a day. The resilience of youth!
While we were on the road, Cali was showing some hesitancy around things she’d seen before — statues, motorcycles — and I was worried that she’d hit a fear period. Puppies go through stages in their development where they suddenly become fearful of new things, or not-so-new things, and a fear period and a cross-country drive are not a good combination. But she seems to have passed through the fear period quickly and without a scratch.
Since arriving in Florida, Cali has also discovered things like neighbors and traffic. While our neighborhood is relatively quiet, it’s a far cry from our rural home in California. People come and deliver or remove things — mail, trash, dry cleaning — regularly. Cars pass by. Pedestrians, too — many with dogs. Cats wander through the yard. Other critters too, though we had our fair share of those in California. Lizards are everywhere here, and endlessly fascinating to a puppy. There are so many people to meet, so many things to bark at in Florida!
Cali’s next challenge is convincing her new sister Albee to play the way she wants. Albee invites Cali to play tug by whacking her on the head with a tug toy. Cali invites Albee to play by choosing a toy and playing keep away. Neither is getting what she wants — yet. Both love to play ball and Frisbee, though, so we’re confident that they will figure out how to communicate about other games.
Cali is lucky that she gets to experience so many new and exciting things. I am lucky that she is mostly confident and curious, and that, when she is fearful, she overcomes it fairly quickly. This combination is setting her up to be a confident and calm dog who won’t be easily overwhelmed by new sights and sounds — a dog who could, someday, be a service dog working comfortably out in public.